Preview - Group A: Saudi Arabia ready for the challenge
Moscow: The 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia kicks off on Thursday with Asia represented by a historic five teams - Australia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Korea Republic, Japan and Saudi Arabia.
The Continent's top five teams all harbour hopes of advancing to the Knockout Stage and the-AFC.com takes a look at the challenges ahead. We kick off the series by analysing Group A, which will see Saudi Arabia playing Russia in the opening match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup on Thursday.
The Green Falcons, who will be appearing in the FIFA World Cup for the fifth time, are aiming to advance to the Knockout Stage for a second time - having featured in the Round of 16 in the 1994 edition.
It will be a challenge as besides hosts Russia, who will be desperate to extend their 2018 FIFA World Cup adventure for as long as possible, Saudi Arabia also have to contend with Uruguay and Egypt.
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FIFA World Cup history: Fifth participation
FIFA World Cup best: Round of 16 (1994)
FIFA ranking: 67
Nickname: The Green Falcons
How they qualified: Finished second in Asian qualifying Group B behind Japan
Goalkeepers: Yasser al-Mosaileem (Al-Ahli), Abdullah al-Mayouf (Al-Hilal), Mohammed al-Owais (Al-Ahli).
Defenders: Mansour al-Harbi (Al-Ahli), Yasser al-Shahrani (Al-Hilal), Osama Hawsawi (Al-Hilal), Omar Hawsawi (Al-Nassr), Motaz Hawsawi (Al-Ahli), Ali al-Bulayhi (Al-Hilal), Mohammed al-Burayk (Al-Hilal).
Midfielders: Abdulla Otayf (Al-Hilal), Salman al-Faraj (Al-Hilal), Mohammed Kanno (Al-Hilal), Abdullah al-Khaibari (Al-Shabab), Hussein al-Moqahwi (Al-Ahli), Abdulmalik al-Khaibari (Al-Hilal), Hattan Bahebri (Al Shabab), Salem al-Dawsari (Al-Hilal), Taisir al-Jassim (Al-Ahli), Yahya al-Shehri (Al-Nassr), Fahad al-Muwallad (Al-Ittihad).
Forwards: Mohannad Assiri (Al-Ahli), Mohammed al-Sahlawi (Al-Nassr).
Head Coach: Juan Antonio Pizzi (ARG)
Honours: 1960 European Championship winners (as the Soviet Union); European Championship runners-up (as the Soviet Union) - 1964, 1972, 1988; Olympic Gold in 1956 (as the Soviet Union)
FIFA World Cup history: Fourth World Cup as an independent nation (seven World Cups as the Soviet Union)
FIFA World Cup best: Fourth place in 1966 (Soviet Union)
FIFA ranking: 70
How they qualified: Automatically as hosts
Goalkeepers: Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow), Vladimir Gabulov (Brugge/BEL), Andrey Lunev (Zenit St Petersburg).
Defenders: Vladimir Granat (Rubin Kazan), Fyodor Kudryashov (Rubin Kazan), Ilya Kutepov (Spartak Moscow), Andrey Semyonov (Akhmat Grozny), Igor Smolnikov (Zenit St Petersburg), Mario Fernandes (CSKA Moscow), Sergei Ignashevich (CSKA Moscow).
Midfielders: Yury Gazinsky (Krasnodar), Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moscow), Alexander Golovin (CSKA Moscow), Alexander Erokhin (Zenit St Petersburg), Yury Zhirkov (Zenit St Petersburg), Daler Kuzyaev (Zenit St Petersburg), Roman Zobnin (Spartak Moscow), Alexander Samedov (Spartak Moscow), Anton Miranchuk (Lokomotiv Moscow), Denis Cheryshev (Villarreal/ESP).
Forwards: Artem Dzyuba (Arsenal Tula), Alexei Miranchuk (Lokomotiv Moscow), Fyodor Smolov (Krasnodar).
Head Coach: Stanislav Cherchesov (RUS)
Honours: Africa Cup of Nations winners in 1957, 1959, 1986, 1998, 2006, 2008, 2010; Africa Cup of Nations runners-up in 1962, 2017
FIFA World Cup history: Third participation
FIFA World Cup best: First round in 1934 and 1990
FIFA ranking: 45
Nickname: The Pharaohs
How they qualified: Finished top of Group E in African qualifying
Goalkeepers: Essam El Hadary (Al Taawoun/KSA), Mohamed El Shenawy (Al Ahly), Sherif Ekramy (Al Ahly).
Defenders: Ahmed Fathi (Al Ahly), Saad Samir (Al Ahly), Ayman Ashraf (Al Ahly), Ahmed Hegazi (West Bromwich Albion/ENG), Ali Gabr (West Bromwich Albion/ENG), Ahmed Elmohamady (Aston Villa/ENG), Mohamed Abdel-Shafi (Al Fateh/KSA), Omar Gaber (Los Angeles/USA), Mahmoud Hamdy (Zamalek).
Midfielders: Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal/ENG), Tarek Hamed (Zamalek), Sam Morsy (Wigan/ENG), Mahmoud Abdel Razek (Al Raed/KSA), Abdallah El Said (Al Ahly), Mahmoud Hassan (Kasimpasa/TUR), Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke City/ENG), Amr Warda (Atromitos/GRE), Mahmoud Abdel-Moneim (Al Ittihad/KSA).
Forwards: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool/ENG), Marwan Mohsen (Al Ahly).
Head Coach: Hector Cuper (ARG)
Honours: World Cup winners 1930, 1950; 15 times winners of Copa America; Olympic gold medallists 1924, 1928
FIFA World Cup history: Thirteenth participation
FIFA World Cup best: Winners in 1930 and 1950
FIFA ranking: 14
Nickname: La Celeste (The Sky Blues)
How they qualified: Finished second in South American qualifying behind Brazil.
Goalkeepers: Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray/TUR), Martin Silva (Vasco da Gama/BRA), Martin Campana (Independiente/ARG)
Defenders: Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid/ESP), Sebastian Coates (Sporting Lisbon/POR), Jose Maria Gimenez (Atletico Madrid/ENG), Maximiliano Pereira (FC Porto/POR), Gaston Silva (Independiente/ARG), Martin Caceres (Lazio/ITA), Guillermo Varela (Penarol)
Midfielders: Nahitan Nandez (Boca Juniors/ARG), Lucas Torreira (Sampdoria/ITA), Matias Vecino (Inter Milan/ITA), Federico Valverde (Real Madrid/ESP), Rodrigo Bentancur (Juventus/ITA), Carlos Sanchez (Monterrey/MEX), Giorgian De Arrascaeta (Cruzeiro/BRA), Diego Laxalt (Genoa/ITA), Cristian Rodriguez (Penarol), Jonathan Urretaviscaya (Monterrey/MEX), Nicolas Lodeiro (Seattle Sounders/USA), Gaston Ramirez (Sampdoria/ITA)
Forwards: Cristhian Stuani (Girona/ITA), Maximiliano Gomez (Celta Vigo/ESP), Edinson Cavani (PSG/FRA), Luis Suarez (Barcelona/ESP)
Head Coach: Oscar Tabarez (URU)
Fixtures (Local Time)
Russia vs Saudi Arabia (18:00)
Egypt vs Uruguay (17:00)
Russia vs Egypt (21:00)
Uruguay vs Saudi Arabia (18:00)
Uruguay vs Russia (18:00)
Saudi Arabia vs Egypt (17:00)
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